Label: Independent (Kickstarter)
Release Date: 09.22.13
Reviewer: Lee Brown
- Dead Militia
- The Name
- Angels and Demons
- Yesterday is Over
- The Right Time
Disciple is fast approaching their 20th anniversary as a band (in terms of album releases). Let that sink in for just a moment. When I was growing up, music rags talked at length about bands like Aerosmith and The Stones and how accomplished they were for weathering the “tumultuous” music industry and proving their staying power as rock veterans. But, while these acts are still functionally around, both had their true heydays in a very different musical era. I mean no discredit to their awesome legacies; but follow me down the rabbit hole for just a moment.
Disciple came out just before the rise of peer-to-peer. In fact, my first experience of the band was their still-amazing song “I Just Know” on Napster. They didn’t enter the music industry with mainstream support. Working from small independent/Christian labels, they made a name for themselves with fans through touring and constantly honing, revising, and revisiting their sound. They survived the Napster era and the industry wide crash that has been happening over the last decade or more, especially in the rock music genre. Though they would see some label support later in their careers (and mainstream success with songs being used in the NBA, WWE, and etc.), Kevin Young and company built a rabid and devoted fan base mostly through hard work and solid rock music alone.
We give a lot of credit to bands that make it (in the mainstream) for longer than even a couple years nowadays. How much more does this speak about a band who has spent most of their two-decade long career in the Christian and independent scene, completely unashamed in their lyrics to call on the name of Jesus, and who have experimented with everything from southern rock to rapcore! Disciple are industry veterans and they deserve a heaping of respect for not only still sticking around, but for continuously releasing solid releases as the years go on.
It is with this in mind that I say that Attack is an accomplishment. I don’t know that it is Disciple’s best album ever, but it has all the right makings to get close to that prize. The album is aggressive, lyrically outspoken for Jesus (something you would hope to expect from a band name “Disciple”), and intimately relatable. Attack is incredibly hopeful as it explores the pain of this world set against an uncommon hope in Christ’s hands. “Scarlet,” “Unbroken,” “Lion,” “Angels and Demons,” “Yesterday is Over,” AND “The Right Time” all easily earn a spot on my “Positivity, Passion, Power, and Praise” playlist! It is also lyrically aggressive, with songs like “Radical,” “Attack,” and, most notably “Dead Militia” serving as anthemic fight songs. Finally, it is also completely worshipful with “The Name,” “Angels and Demons,” and the beautiful “Scarlet,” all displaying an air of praise and even worship.
Musically, Attack is a hybrid between their Back Again album and their later self-titled era sound. Longtime fans of the band will have no doubts about whether or not to lay down their money on this one. Simply put, it is their best album since their self-titled, and perhaps since By God. Those who are not familiar with the southern-flavored rock/metal Disciple bring will discover a band who, though Kevin himself is the only remaining member (even since the previous albums), have long ago found their sound and simply been honing it to a razor’s edge since.
Before I get into the album breakdown, it is important to note, that around the end of 2013, Kevin rebuilt Disciple from the ground up. Since then, Josiah Prince from Philmont and Andrew Stanton from I am Empire were added on guitars, Jason Wilkes from High Flight Society was added on bass and vocals, and Joey West from After Edmund on drums. Add to this talented roster their long-time producer Travis Wyrick and you can see why Young states that he approached this new album with a combination of the band’s legacy, and, in many ways, as a brand new band all at once.
The result is a crowd funded album that honors Disciple’s “industry veteran” past and explores new territory for the band all at once. Disciple has an incredible discography already in place; from 1999’s incredible This Might Sting A Little all the way to 2012’s O God Save Us All (which I gave a 4/5). It would be easy to simply rest on past success and phone in new releases every few years. Instead, Disciple goes back to the drawing board to bring tracks like “Dead Militia,” which sound like Disciple meets Sleeping Giant, or “Scarlet,” who’s lyrics will melt your heart back to humility before God in new and powerful ways.
The album begins with “Radical.” “Radical” brings more than a little reminder of the opening song on Back Again (also called “Back Again”) and therefore cleanly sets expectations for the long-time fan. Luckily, this track, as with the album that follows it, backs those expectations up. “Radical” is a sold-out anthemic battle song that proudly aligns itself with Christ “till the day I day.” Where many other bands try to veil their devotion to Christ through lyrical parables, Disciple lets the world know from the very first words uttered on the album that they are sold out to Christ and Christ alone.
“Attack” continues the anthemic battle music feel with a cry to attack against the enemy of our souls. The grungy guitars feel like classic Disciple, yet atmospheric flourishes remind you that you’re listening to something altogether new. Lyrics such as, “Are you ready for a fight?, Then you’re in the right place tonight!” waste little time in mincing words and get directly to the heart of the matter. “When the bullets start to fly, it’s time to let your faith arise, in the battle for your life.”
“Dead Militia,” as mentioned above, feels as if Young and crew spent a few hours listening to Sleeping Giant before sitting down to put pen to paper, and the result is fantastic. Perhaps the best heavy song Disciple has created in the second decade of their career, “Dead Militia” is every bit as “anthemic battle music” as the tracks that precede it, yet it brings that x-factor element that sets it apart. Musically and vocally it is certainly and definitively a Disciple song, yet the flourishes brought by the many and talented new members become most apparent here. This song is grungy, heavy, with chanting screams and challenging words, and it is an experience you don’t want to miss.
“Dead Militia” is fantastic… almost a class by itself, but “Scarlet” and “Unbroken” somehow manage to be every bit as powerful in their own ways. Both tracks are on the lighter scale with more singsongy choruses, and both are absolutely beautiful. “Scarlet” touches a theme Disciple goes back to many times across their career (don’t let that sound negative, every Christian should return to this theme daily!) – that of being overwhelmed by the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ – but it does it in a new and fresh way with intimate lyrics that are somehow sung with a new conviction behind them. “Though my sins may be as scarlet. Though my hands have been an enemy of God. Though my heart has played the harlot. You gave me more than I deserve, when you washed my whole world as white as snow.”
With “Dead Militia” and “Scarlet” landing the one-two punch, “Unbroken” goes for the early knockout. Musically, “Unbroken” scales back to more of a ballad/rock format with many atmospheric elements incorporated to bring a unique feel. Lyrically, “Unbroken” is neigh as powerful as “Scarlet” as Young croons, “whatever comes my way I know that I’m coming out the other side unbroken.” Wilkes’ added vocals also bring a nice element to the song. As mentioned above, this is pure passion, positivity, power, and praise. When Philippians 4:8 tells us to dwell on things that are pure, excellent, right, true, praiseworthy, lovely, admirable, and noble, this is what it is talking about. In today’s broken world, it is tempting to focus (“dwell” as the NASB puts it) on the negative, however, we are called to remember that even though the world may continue to break, “(we’re) coming out the other side unbroken.”
Continuing the assault, and striking ever closer to that knock-out blow, “The Name” takes the classic hymn “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” and gives it a Back Again-era Disciple makeover. David Crowder worship, this is not. Yet, just as Becoming the Archetype revamped “How Great Thou Art” into a metal/worship masterpiece, Disciple takes the classic hymn and gives it new blood for a new era. The lyrics are split neatly between hymnody and newly crafted lyrics, yet the two feel as though they belong together since birth. This is a modern-day devotional masterpiece set to pounding drums and brutally devoted screams. “I will not be afraid to speak Your name. I don’t care if they drag me off in chains. No power from hell can shake my faith. I’m not afraid to speak Your name. This body will starve these bones will break, but… I will not be afraid to speak Your name.”
Though “Radical” and “Attack” are good, “Dead Militia” through “The Name” are simply fantastic. One would think, then, that the album would be due for a down-moment or a dull track. Well, luckily, that is not the case. Though I don’t feel “Angels and Demons” quite lives up to the caliber of those aforementioned tracks, it certainly is not far from them. With a strong lyric ripped right from Paul’s famous diatribe that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, Disciple continues to bring infectious passion with every scream.
Not to be left out, “Lion” notches things back up again. Though the main riff feels a little familiar (though I can’t place the track is clearly reminds me of), “Lion” continues to bring passion, positive and empowering lyrics, and infectious devotion. Continuing the theme of the “Attack” started early in the album, this track takes a lyrical journey of being ready to stand up and be bold “when the enemy strikes” and challenges the listener to the boldness of a lion.
“Yesterday is Over” returns to the rock/ballad style, opening with one of the most infectious riffs on the album. Like “Unbroken,” “Yesterday is Over” seeks to be a positive and empowering song. While “Unbroken” is more raucous and empowering, “Yesterday is Over” brings a more intimate and relatable pain with it that makes it grip into you in a different way. “Open up your hands, and let go of what’s behind you. The past can’t hurt you anymore… will you let this be the moment that you let go of yourself. Let His love hold on to you, and He won’t let go.” While there are several great tracks that precede this one, and it is certainly not my favorite overall song on the album, “Yesterday is Over” is the type of song that changes lives. This is the type of song that quells suicidal thoughts. This is the type of song that someone will be talking about in their testimony years from now on how it changed them. And, that is a powerful and praise-worthy thing.
In an effort to prevent an already too-long review from becoming hideously too long, allow me to summarize the three remaining tracks. They’re good. “KamiKaze” has a unique feel to it and is musically distinct in many ways from what precedes it, but it didn’t stick with me the way the rest of the album did. “Crazy” has a nice industrial vibe to it early on that sets it apart a bit, and it is very relatable as a song either to a broken relationship or to the devil, but it also did not stick with me as the previous tracks did. “The Right Time” closes things out as Disciple usually does with a nice ballad or soft-rock track that brings it all back to focus on Jesus saving us “just at the right time.” It is a good song, and it closes out the album in typical Disciple fashion.
Musicianship: As mentioned, this version of Disciple is really Kevin Young plus a variety of members (formerly) from other bands. But, this works. The other members seem to have a handle on classical Disciple while also adding something unique to the party, and the musicianship is high throughout Attack. “Dead Militia” alone proves how powerful this new combination is.
Lyrical/Spiritual Content: Anyone who knows Disciple knows that they are ROCK solid in their faith and aren’t afraid to make every note and every letter passionately about Jesus. In terms of lyrics, this album packs some of Young’s best writing in years. Not that other albums have been lesser, but there is a relatable passion, a hint of pain, and an overall call to battle that really makes each track (though sometimes a bit similar) deep and impactful. “Scarlet” and “The Past is Over” are some of the best positive tracks out there right now.
Lasting Value: When I first listened to this album I struggled with a 3 simply because of my last Disciple review. Though I gave the album high praises then, I honestly left it behind and stopped looking back much sooner than I thought I would with it. But, then again, I’ve admitted this struggle before when it comes to landing a review score. Looking back, I would probably give the band’s 2012 effort a “3” at this point.
That said, I proudly stand behind this “4,” as Attack brings some of the most impactful and memorable songs Disciple has produced in years. If I could be so bold, I would gladly say that this album is the best they’ve done in the latter half of their career, while, though possibly nostalgia driven, This Might Sting a Little and By God both hold strong for me in their first decade.
Overall: With over twenty years under their belts, Disciple is officially an industry success story no matter how you look at it. That said, Kevin Young and his new crew have not stopped yet. Attack is the best Disciple’s album of the latter decade of their career. Bringing anthemic battle-driven tracks that inspire while also positively uplifting the listener out of the mire of this world and offering them hope, this is an album that deserves to be internalized into your very soul. In addition to this, Attack has more singularly great tracks than perhaps anything the band has ever produced.